Here at ShoutMeLoud, we always talk about WordPress. No doubt, WordPress is one of the easiest platform to blog on. At the initial stage, you may have to work little hard to learn WordPress, but there are WordPress guides, which will help you to understand everything.
I have a few mediocre websites – some Joomla, some WordPress, and some others that I have forgotten about or neglected. However, I am fussy about building them to best practice, within the budget. So let me show how I built a WordPress site in two days and how you can build it in an hour.
I’ll say at the outset that the delay was owing to a problem with a special theme I used, lest I turn you off. As some of you know, you can click a button in your hosting control panel and “install” WordPress in a second. However, WordPress setup and tuning takes work and that is never-ending.
Define the Goals for your WordPress Blog
Most people create a personal blog but, given this audience, I’ll limit this to a money-making WordPress site that requires free traffic. My goals were:
- Build a review site with a new angle.
- Give guest bloggers an incentive to contribute such as Shoutmeloud’s revenue-sharing program.
- Avoid spammy, fake contributions.
- SEO, i.e. free traffic
- SMO, i.e. free traffic
- Forum at a later date
Define the Angle
My motive for the site was not commercial. I have spent over 20 years volunteering with computer user groups. They meet in person, have subscriptions, paper newsletters, etc so you can imagine how the Internet has made them redundant. I am still defining this angle, as the site still resembles a typical affiliate site built for making money. That won’t attract altruistic people, particularly ones who don’t want to include an affiliate link. If you have any ideas, write them in the comments below.
You need to find your angle. This will help you write content, choose plugins and a theme. A useful, free mind-mapping tool to help you is Freemind. Use it to link related topics that radiate out from the central theme. Here is an example of its output based on one of my other assignments:
You can install WP from your control panel. I have cPanel/Fantastico, so it is a one-click install for me. Harsh has written several posts about WordPress installation, and here are WordPress blog installation method for 3 popular hosting companies:
- How to Install wordpress on Dreamhost
- How to Install WordPress on Bluehost
- How to Install WordPress on Hostgator
Find right WordPress Plugins to install
You need to find the right plugins to perform the job as per your goals. The WP site often has multiple plugins available to do the same task, so you need to try them out, preferably in advance, such as on your other sites. No harm done if you want trial and error – some old plugins are still listed but you will see a warning that they might not work on your new version of WP. I am not saying that I found the best plugins on the planet, but they do work with the current version of WP (3.0.1).
For my review site, I chose:
- Akismet (anti-spam, comes with WP)
- WordPress SEO by Yoast (SEO)
- WP Forms WordPress plugin
- Google XML Sitemaps (help the indexing process)
- Thirsty Affiliates Plugin (mask affiliate links)
- Digg Digg WordPress plugin for social sharing.
- WordPress Database Backup (insurance)
- WP Security Scan (keeps the bad people out)
Some of the above are optional, e.g. Favicons can be coded manually.
I haven’t linked to the plugins because you should search for them from the Plugins > Add New link in your installation.
Take time to choose a theme, not just because of its looks but to be compatible with the current version of WordPress. I had to buy one (it came with the review plugin).
- I intend to migrate it to Genesis, or other high-performance theme. Here are few options for best premium theme clubs.
WordPress Blog Setup:
Choosing various WP settings is crucial to good SEO and I’ll share the ones I changed from the defaults:
Posts > Categories
- Define as many as you can think of for now.
- The description might not show, depending on your theme.
- Create an About me page
- Create a contact page
Appearance > Themes
- Choose your theme wisely.
- Make mental note to add special tags, e.g. Google Analytics
- Use Google tag manager to manage all the tags.
Appearance > Widgets
- Choose Widgets wisely
Appearance > Editor
This is where you can do damage if you are careless. Back up everything at this point before going forward. Customising the theme makes your site a little more different than someone else who is installing everything at its defaults.
- I use FTP to back up customised themes (in fact all files from the site as well as MySQL backups of the content.)
- style.css may need editing if your theme does odd things such as not aligning images properly.
- comments.php needed editing in my case as the comment form is used to add mini reviews.
- footer.php should contain the Google Analytics code if you don’t use a GA plugin. There is merit in loading it in the header.php because this catches partial page views where the visitor abandons the site before the page loads fully. As an SEO, I prefer keeping the content higher, so I don’t do that. Add rel=nofollow to any links you want to keep, e.g. theme author’s site, wordpress.org etc. Else remove extraneous links.
- header.php in my case begins with Zbblock code to deter spammers and hackers. Look it up and read the instructions well. Add special tags as needed, e.g. BlogCatalog, Google WMT, etc
- The remaining files shouldn’t need editing unless you have some special needs relevant to your site’s goals.
Plugins > Add New
- (covered earlier, so the following only applies if you used the same ones as me) (How to Install WordPress plugin)
Plugins > Akismet Configuration
- Set this up before the next step. Follow the link to get an Akismet API key value and install it. This will catch most spam. Use an existing key if you have done this before.
Plugins > SI Contact Form
- Choose the form you like and copy the code into a new page you create called Contact Us (or similar)
- Add a subject prefix in square brackets so that your email program can look for this label and filter it to a special folder. e.g. [Shoutmeloud Enquiry]
Settings > General
- WP address (URL) and Site address (URL) – ensure that the site begins with “www.”. Later, in Google Webmaster Tools, set the preferred domain to be this one.
- Anyone can register with a default role of Subscriber.
- Timezone depends on your audience.
Settings > Writing
- Size of the text box should be more than the default, so your authors don’t have to discover that they can drag it to as long as they wish.
- Set a default Post Category.
Settings > Reading
- For syndication feeds I choose to show a summary. The reader can come to the site to view the rest of the article (and generate an impression if I want to run CPM ads) and possibly buy through an affiliate link.
Settings > Discussion
- I choose to turn off pingbacks and trackbacks
- Choose other settings wisely. Requiring registration to comment will discourage some. You can always turn on comment moderation if the comment has a link in it.
Settings > Media
- Set the image sizes. I don’t want large images wider than 500 pixels, for example, else they would spill off the page in my theme.
Settings > Privacy
- By default the blog is visible to search engines. Ensure this is the case if you want traffic.
Settings > Permalinks
- This is important for SEO. I use a custom structure:
- Though with WordPress 3.5+, %permalink% is the best. You can read more about WordPress Permalink here.
Settings > WordPress SEO by Yoast
- You can read this detailed guide by Harsh on, How to setup WordPress SEO by Yoast..
Settings > Feedburner
- Go to feedburner.com and set up an account. (How to burn feed using Feedburner)
- Get a feed address and paste it in the field. Remove any stray spaces.
- Get code to display your blog headlines on any other site you own.
Settings > Follow Me
- Add profiles from other social media platforms that you want to associate with this site’s goals. Don’t just add them for the sake of it.
Settings > Like
- Position the button only on Show at Top (or Bottom) and Show on Post
- Add the FB numeric ID
Settings > Author Bio
- Only choose Posts
Settings > ShareThis
- Go to sharethis.com, get your widget code and paste it here.
- Don’t add to your Pages
Settings > S. Simple Favicon
- Make an favicon using a tool such as IcoFX and load it both in the theme’s folder and another copy in the root folder. Supply the latter URL in the provided field.
- 35 Free online tools to generate Favicon
Settings > XML-Sitemap
- Tick all the Update Notification choices.
- Use Comment Count as the Post Priority
- Sitemap Content should only be homepage, posts, static pages.
- Change frequencies – depends on your site’s freshness but I have Daily for the home page, weekly for posts and monthly for static pages. Rest are defaults.
- Priorities – mine are homepage = 1.0, Posts 0.6, Pages = 0.4
- Display button only in your feed. It is on for all Posts.
- Enter the Twitter username in Source.
- Hashtags – select the Top tags
- At least change the admin username to something else
- Fix anything you can within your technical abilty
- 7 Essential WordPress security tips
- Install WordFence plugin
I alluded to some things you need to do off-site. Do this after you have uploaded at least one post. This will kick off a fresh sitemap.
You will need to fine-tune the monetization model and Shoutmeloud is a great place to get more ideas. This will include promotion by yourself. Put some deep thought into that instead of taking shortcuts that may ruin the site in Google’s eyes, e.g. blackhat methods, spam etc.
You need to open Webmaster accounts at the three major engines (you will need accounts there):
I use the file method of authentication. That way you don’t need to make sure that the tag is on every page.
The contents of my robots.txt shows the folders I want to hide from spiders, mainly to stop duplicate URLs that are caused by the same page showing in tags and categories. It is also a place to add the location of the sitemap.xml:
- Keep in mind that you may wish to get a more streamlined theme such as Genesis at a later date.
- Server performance is quite important – keep image sizes low and use Firefox add-ons such as Page Speed and Firebug/Yslow to find areas to improve.
- If all you can afford is a shared host, ask the tech support to move you to a lightly-loaded machine. Use Bing to find how many other sites are on your IP address, e.g. put IP:6[7:22]2.19.134 in the search window to see that Shoutmeloud shares this IP with one other site. Check your own.
I know this article is detailed, but if you are someone who is planning to start with WordPress, this tutorial will help you to setup WordPress in no time. If you are still not comfortable, you can always take advantage of ShoutMeLoud Free WordPress setup.